February 24, 2024
Levi's Stadium has a 10 p.m. weeknight curfew and an 11 p.m. weekend curfew.

For years, big-name acts like the Rolling Stones, Coldplay, and other musicians have coolly blown through the curfews at Levi’s Stadium.

It’s been a point of contention ever since the stadium was built in Santa Clara nearly a decade ago among residential neighborhoods, with cutoff times set at 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends to protect residents living in its shadow from loud noise blaring late into the night.

Over the years, the San Francisco 49ers, who manage non-NFL events at the venue, have been fined $1,000 each time the curfews are ignored — a paltry amount for a billion-dollar franchise.

In 2021, the Santa Clara City Council relaxed the curfew slightly, allowing five weeknight shows a year to go until 11 p.m. But that hasn’t been enough for superstars like Taylor Swift and Beyonce, both of whom broke the curfew this summer to the delight of the tens of thousands of fans in attendance.

Swift ended at 11:38 p.m. and 11:26 p.m. during her two-night run, while Beyonce closed out her weeknight show — despite receiving a one-hour extension — at 11:29 p.m. Santa Clara is still reviewing whether to fine the 49ers for the violations, but at least for Swift, a city spokesperson previously told the Mercury News that they received no noise complaints from neighbors. The city would not say whether they received complaints about Beyonce’s show.

The 49ers have long advocated for the council to relax the curfew, contending it discourages artists from booking shows at Levi’s. In 2017, Ed Sheeran famously bowed out of a weeknight show because of the 10 p.m. stop time.

“We believe music fans deserve to enjoy concerts the way the artist intended, and venues can either adapt to the market or the world’s biggest artists will go elsewhere,” 49ers President Al Guido said in a statement. “The curfew flexibility approved in 2021 allowed us to drive record attendance and profits for the Stadium Authority in 2022, host the world’s largest concert tours in 2023 and generate tens of millions of dollars for Santa Clara businesses and workers.”

A 49ers spokesperson told the Mercury News they estimate each concert at Levi’s Stadium generates $7 to $10 million for local businesses. According to the 49ers consultants, Swift’s record-breaking Eras Tour brought in $33.5 million to the area.

Despite the 49ers plea, the council doesn’t seem poised to make any major changes. Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Councilmember Kathy Watanabe, neither of whom responded to a request for comment for this story, have long been proponents of the curfew, saying it protects residents living nearby from the noise. Gillmor and Watanabe, along with Vice Mayor Kevin Park — who also couldn’t be reached for comment — voted against the curfew changes in 2021.

The current curfew rules, though, appear to have struck the right balance for several members of the council.

Councilmember Raj Chahal said in an interview that while the city needed leeway to allow some weeknight shows like Beyonce to go a little later, 11 p.m. should be a hard stop time. He was “disturbed” by the three shows that went past that this summer, and said the city needs to ensure the 49ers are enforcing the rule.

“It’s a management thing,” he said. “We need to tell the 49ers Management Company make sure you work out these things, and 11 p.m. is a real cutoff.”

Councilmember Suds Jain said he is amenable to possibly changing the curfew in the summer when kids aren’t in school and daylight lasts longer. Artists might want to start later, he said, to use the backdrop of the night sky for their special effects.

“What I’ve been trying to do is get fireworks limited to just quiet fireworks with lots of light and not very much boom,” he said.

Santa Clara has already taken action to crack down on post-curfew fireworks, fining Swift’s pyrotechnics company, Pyrotek, $2,000 for violating its permit that lasted until 11 p.m.

But before the council makes any changes, Jain wants to review the noise level data for Swift and Beyonce’s concerts. The city has yet to provide an estimate as to how long that will take.

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Santa Clara pulled out all the stops for Swift and Beyonce, making each pop singer mayor for the day, temporarily renaming the city to Swiftie Clara for Swift and giving Beyonce the key to the city. Fining the 49ers for either of their curfew-breaking shows after rolling out the red carpet may not be the best look for Santa Clara, Councilmember Anthony Becker said.

“When we go and do proclamations, naming them the mayor and then we turn around and fine them for going over our curfew, I frankly think that’s not good for business,” he said.

Becker also said that going past 11 p.m. is “really concerning”; in hindsight, he wishes the city would have built an enclosed stadium, like AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas or Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

Like Jain though, he’s open to the city exploring curfew changes in the summer months. However, he wants the 49ers to alert the city if artists intend on going past 11 p.m. Instead of a fine, Becker would like to see artists making donations to local charities.

“It’s disappointing that it’s gone this way, but now it’s about this is a taxpayer stadium with debt on the line, and if we don’t book good events it’s costing taxpayers money,” he said. “The one thing I want to make sure is we pay off the stadium debt.”

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